Shopping trends: search ads beat paid social for Christmas gift inspiration

As the golden quarter of e-commerce begins, exclusive survey results reveal 4 key insights into what shoppers really think of online ads.

New survey data, from LoopMe, quizzed 3,018 consumers on 19-23 October to understand retail preferences in the run up to the holiday season, from Black Friday and Cyber Monday right up until Christmas Eve. 

It found that while in-store shopping was still leading the way, over one-third (37 percent) of respondents were considering spending more online than on the high street for their Christmas gifts this year.

Key audience demographic insights:

  • 45-54 year olds are most likely to purchase their Christmas gifts via their mobile devices

  • 55-64 year olds are most likely to purchase their Christmas gifts via their tablet devices

  • Females are three times more likely than males to do most of their Christmas shopping in November

  • 18-24 year olds are the most likely to use ads as the main way to find and buy gifts

  • 1 in 2 18-24 years olds are inspired by product placement content such as an influencer to buy Christmas gifts

Sarah Rew, Senior Director, Global Marketing, LoopMe, says: “There's a huge opportunity for retail brands to make use of mobile advertising this Christmas season, with over a third (38 percent) of consumers shopping for Christmas gifts online via their mobile devices.”

The data surfaced four key insights for performance marketers looking to optimise their campaigns for the festive season

57 percent of the adult population are using online ads for inspiration 

While 43 percent emphatically disregard online ads for their Christmas shopping ideas, performance marketers will be pleased to know that the vast majority (57 percent) do acknowledge the role they play in influencing purchases. Of those, 15 percent use them regularly for a large proportion of their purchases. 

Optimise for mobile

Brands need to prioritise shoppers on the move, or at least, in their living rooms. Over a third (38 percent) of consumers are shopping for Christmas gifts online via their mobile devices and 32 percent of consumers will purchase most of their Christmas gifts online via their tablet devices. By comparison, just 28 percent will shop via a laptop and 3 percent will use a smart speaker to top up their online baskets.

Cash in on the early rush

Start early, but not too early. Concerns about stock shortages have prompted many to snap up stock ahead of the shopping frenzy.  Only 12 percent do most of their Christmas gift shopping in October (or earlier) but November is the prime time, with 43 percent getting most of their purchases completed before they’ve even opened their advent calendar. Nearly one third shop mostly in early December and 15 percent like to live dangerously and shop in the weeks (and even days) leading up to 25th December. 

Focus budgets on search for better performance 

In terms of format, over half (53 percent) said that search was the most important online channel when it came to influencing their decision to buy a Christmas gift. Paid social media ads lagged surprisingly far behind in second with just 19 percent, while digital TV and radio ads (13 percent) product placement, such as influencers and YouTube bloggers, (8 percent) and e-commerce site recommendations (8 percent) were not as influential.

Rew adds: “With Google, and other search engines, still playing a pivotal role in consumers’ buying decisions, brands should focus their efforts on search marketing as well as digital advertising, with 54 percent of consumers inspired by search content results or ads to buy a Christmas gift. Brands should also begin targeting consumers as early as possible, with 43 percent of consumers set to do most of their Christmas shopping in November, and females 3x more likely than males to do so.

"To keep abreast of performance during this busy time – and ensure the right audiences are being targeted – brands should prioritise measurement solutions that track and optimise campaigns in real-time. This will allow them to shift strategies as needed and ensure ads consistently match shopper needs and preferences. For example, tracking campaigns against outcomes-based KPIs from the start means retail brands can assess the impact of each ad on core goals – whether it’s purchase intent or in-store sales.”

LoopMe used its patented PurchaseLoop technology to survey 3,018 consumers on 19-23 October to understand retail preferences.